Emergency tapes show dispatcher dismissed early Tahoe fire calls
SACRAMENTO (AP) ” Two dispatchers with the California Highway Patrol initially dismissed 911 calls that came in reporting a fire on the south rim of Lake Tahoe, causing a seven-to-nine minute delay in their response, recordings of the 911 calls that were released Friday show.
On the tape from five calls answered by the CHP Truckee field office, dispatchers tell callers the smoke they are seeing is from a controlled burn in the area. The smoke actually came from a fire that ultimately destroyed 254 homes and burned 3,100 acres of mountain wilderness.
“I’m on the golf course, it’s ” uh ” Lake Tahoe Country Club, and we can see smoke coming off the mountain to the west of us,” a man reports, according to a transcript of the first call received by the CHP’s Truckee communications center at 2:02 p.m. on June 24.
“Yeah. Yeah, they’re doing a ” a control burn there,” the dispatcher responds.
“Thank you,” the unidentified male caller responds. “Sorry to bother you.”
Capt. Gary Ross, commander of the CHP field office in Truckee, said their dismissals caused a delayed response to the fire.
The dispatchers also did not follow CHP policy, in which they are instructed to keep callers on the line and transfer them to a local fire department in such situations. Instead, they let the callers hang up.
Both dispatchers were removed from their positions on July 4 and have been reassigned out of the Truckee office while the CHP investigates, Ross said.
“We have policies in place to make sure these type of things don’t happen,” he said.
The CHP said it will not release the names of the dispatchers. One is a 27-year CHP veteran and the other has been a dispatcher for 17 years, Ross said.
A CHP captain out of Chico is handling the investigation, Ross said.
The tapes were released after several media organizations filed public records requests.
” Tribune staff writer William Ferchland contributed to this report. The Tribune will be uploading the audio momentarily.